Baylor faculty weighs in on Israel-Palestine conflict in panel discussion

Baylor faculty provided Baylor students, faculty and staff with information to better understand the context of the war now being waged in Israel. Abby Roper | Photographer

By Madeline Condor | Staff Writer

Five faculty members spoke in a Baylor-hosted discussion on Israel and Palestine Wednesday to help students, faculty and staff “learn and understand the political, historical, and religious context to the war now being waged,” according to the Office of the President.

Joanne Cummings, adjunct professor of political science, teaches Middle East political dynamics and spoke on the background of recent events that have been unfolding in Israel and Palestine.

“There was a qualitatively and quantitatively different attack by Hamas militants across the border from the Gaza Strip into Israel that killed, tortured, traumatized and abducted over 1,000 Israeli civilians and people of other countries, and almost 200 people are hostages in Gaza,” Cummings said. “This is an action by Hamas …one of the groups within Palestine that cares about Palestinian nationalism … but also has advocated the use of violence and terror in order to achieve those aims.”

The root of this attack has its roots in “Millennia of anti-semitic violence and understanding it as such is often complicated by debates about Israel as a nation-state,” Dr. Sharon Weiner, lecturer in German, said.

Dr. Lynn Tatum, senior lecturer and associate director of Middle East studies, spoke on the main point of contention between Palestine and Israel. He said the issue must bring itself to a compromise.

“We, as a people, as a government, need to be trying to push for compromise. … All of us on this panel agree that everyone ought to be able to live in freedom, that their kids shouldn’t be killed, whether Jewish kids or Palestinian kids, we all mourn for the pain that we’re seeing in the Middle East,” Tatum said. “All of us need to agree: Jews, Muslims, and Christians, that we will never allow our God to be used as an alibi for murder.”

The current conflicts bring a time for mourning, Dr. Chris van Gorder, associate professor of world religions and Islamic studies, said.

“This [war] is about humanity and a religion, not of Islam, but a religion of hate. Hamas has been in control in that region since 2005 … and they’ve chosen to use their energies to promote hatred and vilification and … the absolute destruction of the State of Israel. This is a war about Israel’s right to exist,” van Gorder said.

Dr. Richard Jordan, assistant professor in political science, said there are consequences of war that should be considered.

“Some unintended consequences I will watch out for is first, war tends to gain its own momentum, that the reasons for fighting a war will often get lost, and new reasons for continuing to fight the war,” Jordan said.

There is a growing literature in political science that shows that humanitarian intervention is set up, and humanitarian aid often has unintended consequences by prolonging conflict, Jordan said.

“That sounds paradoxical, but the logic is straightforward. If you decrease the costs of conflict, you reduce the incentives to settle, you shrink the number of bargains that people are willing to accept, and so I think we have to be cautious as to how we get monetary need,” Jordan said.

The Biden administration announced this morning that the U.S. is providing $100 million in humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank.

President Livingstone said in a statement that these are “challenging days for the Baylor Family, and in this moment, we weep with those who weep and look forward to a day when the Lord will make peace our governor and when violence will no longer be heard in our world, ever heeding Christ’s words: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God’ (Matthew 5:9).”

Tomorrow in Elliston Chapel at 4 p.m., a Prayers for Peace gathering will be held for those impacted by this conflict. This event will be led by the University Chaplain and Dean of Spiritual Life, Dr. Burt Burleson.